Thursday, December 29, 2005

Night Walker

Cover copy: Night Walker by Donald Hamilton Hardcase Crime $6.99

Who was he, really, under the bandages?

When Navy Lieutenant David Young came to in a hospital bed, his face was covered with bandages and the nurses were calling him by a stranger’s name. But David’s nightmare was only beginning. Because the man they believed him to be was suspected of treason—and had driven his wife to murder.

Now David’s got to make his way through a shadow world of suspicion and deception, of dirty deals and brutal crimes, and he needs to stay one step ahead of enemies whose identity he doesn’t even know—since if he can’t, his impersonation of a dead man is about to become a lot more realistic...

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The storyline of the Night Walker was common in crime fiction from roughly the 1920s to the 1960s. What Hamilton brought to it was a new energy, a skill with standing a few of the tropes of their heads, and a surrealistic sense of nighttime much like the film version of Kiss Me Deadly. Even when it's daylight in this book it's midnight.

The other thing Hamilton did well was define, in a reasonable way, the ethics or lack thereof, of the Cold War. Despite being an honorable military man, the hero is a victim of that war. Hamilton is careful to show that elements of the Cold War (from the U.S. point of view) were necessary. But being a good cynical citizen he also saw the excesses and gets them down here in dramatic fashion.

This is an exemplary chase novel, with a good deal of violence and some oddly sweet romance for leavening. Few writers were able to get the spy mentality down as beleivably as Hamilton and it pays off for him here in this moody page turner of a relentless example of Cold War noir.

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